Ex-Gay MPs in the UK, Male feminists, DADT, LGBT Christians and more

This will be one of those “this and that” sorts of blogs. Lots of things to highlight.

NEW podcast available of Queer & Queerer. Men as Feminists, Political Outing, and Archie You may find the discussion about outing homophobic politicians of interest as well as the one about privilege.  Have a listen here and check out the comment section.

I was recently in the Pacific North West and spent a week at University of Puget Sound with a bunch of VERY cool people including Jane (hey Jane!) We staged my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, and I am pleased to learn that a discussion continues.  Seth Kirby, who attended a number of my presentations, wrote an article: Gays and Lesbians often forced to choose between Identity and Faith.

Coming out in my teens and transitioning to male in my early 20s left me without a faith community. Had I wanted to go to church in Olympia, I’m not sure I would have been able to identify where to go. Even churches that accepted gay and lesbian people were not necessary open to transgender people. By 21, I was sure that religion was not for me.

Unfortunately, there are many people in the LGBT community who have had to leave their faith community. I am also fortunate to have many LGBT and allied people of various faith backgrounds in my life.

In Ex-Gay News… In the midst of the upcoming British elections, Rising Tory star Philippa Stroud ran prayer sessions to ‘cure’ gay (and transgender) people. From Sunday’s Guardian:

A high-flying prospective Conservative MP, credited with shaping many of the party’s social policies, founded a church that tried to “cure” homosexuals by driving out their “demons” through prayer.


The CSJ reportedly claims to have formulated as many as 70 of the party’s policies. Stroud has spoken of how her Christian faith has motivated her to help the poor and of her time spent working with the destitute in Hong Kong. On her return to Britain, in 1989, she founded a church and night shelter in Bedford, the King’s Arms Project, that helped drug addicts and alcoholics. It also counseled gay, lesbian and transsexual people.

Abi, a teenage girl with transsexual issues, was sent to the church by her parents, who were evangelical Christians. “Convinced I was demonically possessed, my parents made the decision to move to Bedford, because of this woman [Stroud] who had come back from Hong Kong and had the power to set me free,” Abi told the Observer.

“She wanted me to know all my thinking was wrong, I was wrong and the so-called demons inside me were wrong. The session ended with her and others praying over me, calling out the demons. She really believed things like homosexuality, transsexualism and addiction could be fixed just by prayer, all in the name of Jesus.”

hat tip to my friend Tania Jane Taylor (or in Twitterland known as Sparklygrrl) in Manchester.

The ex-gay story has been in the UK press a lot this past year. In February Patrick Strudwick publish his investigative journalism piece in the Independent. He went undercover to reveal some of what is still going on in the UK. The ex-gay world there had been mostly underground, especially after Jeremy Marks in 2001 transformed his ex-gay program Courage into an LGBT affirming Christian organization. Jeremy also has a book out he published in 2008 after he issued a public apology for his role in promoting and providing ex-gay treatment in the UK. (Click here to order in the UK. For North Americans, you can get it at Amazon.)

DADT protest April 20, 2010 with Autumn Sandeen

Check out Autumn Sandeen‘s brilliant and moving letter: President Obama: A Transgender Veteran Is Not An ”Impersonator,” ”It,” Or ”Shim” Autumn was one of LGBTQ people who did military service and recently chained themselves to the White House fence in order to put pressure on President Obama to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. She writes about her arrest as a transgender woman, who self-identified as transgender, and the uninformed and abusive treatment she received from Park Police and once in confinement. Oh, and hear the Trans-Ponder podcast interview with Autumn.

Calling transgender people “it” is clearly a way of dehumanizing transgender people. “Shim” — a term relative to “she-male” — is also a dehumanizing term to identify transgender people.  President Obama, your U.S. Marshal calling me “it” and “the shim” is the equivalent to calling an African-American by the n-word, or calling a Gay-American by the antigay f-word, it is absolutely unacceptable.

I believe the behavior of your U.S. Marshal’s sent the message to the prisoners that your representatives wouldn’t protect me if these prisoners had sought to physically harm me — because I was a less than human, a “shim.”  At no time did any officer correct or dissuade any of the other officers from such offensive behaviors.  In fact, they seemed to feel comfortable in doing so around each other, even in front of other prisoners.

President Obama, you should be able to identify the U.S. Marshal who raised her fist and yelled “Go Navy” several times, and called me “it” and “shim” because there is a fixed camera facing the U.S. Marshal Station. I’ve asked Jeff Lynch of the DC Trans Coalition to help me file a Freedom Of Information Act request for that segment of video — because I too would like to see the video, and I’m sure too that many others would like to see it as well.

As for me, I am back in the Susquehanna Valley (Selinsgrove and Sunbury, PA) working on my memoir, moving into the new house and recording a new podcast with Zack Ford tomorrow where we will look at legal and illegal discrimination of LGBT folks, a shocking verbal revelation (thanks to Peter Leeson’s recent comments to us about Episode three. check out Peter’s Tweets and Blog Posts)

In New England? Make plans to attend TransformNH in Concord, NH July 23-24. I will be there!


This post has 6 Comments

  1. cary on May 4, 2010 at 9:45 am

    as promised, listened to ep 3. some thoughts:

    first up. i LOVED the Madonna episode of Glee. is the show a total cheese fest? yes. but refreshing to see feminist issues and misogyny addressed so directly? yes. i thought they did a good job of showing the evolving thoughts of the characters about what it means to be empowered and have control over one’s body and sexuality. they managed to address the importance of feeling free to say ‘no’ and placed sex in a context of self-respect and respect for a potential partner without ever suggesting wanting sex, or struggling to know what exactly it is one wants/needs (or indeed that sex itself) is something people should feel ashamed about. i hope they maintain that approach.

    pretty much totally agree with your thoughts (as opposed to Zack’s) in the ‘men as feminists’ conversation. from my experience this remains an issue in feminism and various discussions i’ve been in lately suggests feminist thinking continues to see being/identifying as female as a prerequisite to being/identifying as feminist — because of the ‘particularity that comes with life experience as a woman’ issues you laid out. pro-feminist remains the typical term for men within the feminist and feminist-influenced schools of the academy.
    i would add, however, that i’ve seen in school this past year a very real challenge being laid at feet of feminism when one tries to address trans/genderqueer experience. it breaks down the easy category of who gets to call themselves feminist based on gender identity. queer perspectives puts pressure on various feminism(s) to not fall into essentialist traps. when gender categories are put under question, some forms of feminism are put under strain if they seek to be seen as inclusive.

    on a different tack, i know something you and i have explored in conversation is the lip service paid to feminism in what gets called the emerging Christian movement. i think some folks deal with it better than others. i still tend to observe see far more positive talk/action on queer issues than i do on feminist issues. i’m not saying those should compete. but i think the latter is an area that needs to be improved in and i welcome any effort made to address the very strong tendency to mimic traditional forms of male dominated leadership in self-proclaimed progressive or inclusive forms of church. claims to being feminist should always be done with the kind of caution/consideration you were suggesting. loved your thoughts on the real need for pro-feminist men to listen to women rather than speak for them.

    as for Archie: my pro-feminist partner told me about this a couple of weeks back. as a Brit i wasn’t overly familiar with the Archie comics but his take was, “i’m not sure if this is something that the LGBT community should jump on as a positive thing. the archie comics depict an attitude towards women that demeans. **if** kevin keller can enlighten archie then it would be a good thing. but that would mean a total u-turn on the entire legacy of the series. far more likely would be kevin gets treated like the girls do or he risks mimicking archie in his attitudes towards women. in which case it’s only going to make it an even more problematic comic.”

    negative reaction to kevin being introduced i’ve heard about shows the deep rooted links between homophobia and misogyny. i suspect that the underlying and quite probably unconscious offense is that kevin will by definition not act ‘like a guy should’ – which (from what i can tell in a read through available editions online) seems in Archie’s case is to perpetually demean women. kevin not acting like a real guy risks also being the source of the ‘joke’. it’s take on women seems to be adolescent in the worst sense of the word — neanderthal — and remains as outmoded as it has ever been. if my partner is a pro-feminist he puts it down to in part being encouraged as a kid to critically think about how the girls in Archie were being devalued and drawn from a very patriarchal perspective because it’s pure male teenage wish fulfillment.

    finally, outing politicians: i agree strongly with your cautious approach to this. there too we see a risk in making outing a form of shaming that the LGBTQ community should be very wary of. it is all too easy for the majority to conflate shaming of hypocrisy with shaming for being queer and sends a message that outing others is acceptable. it risks the LGBT community of encouraging homophobia but further risks placing people in (narrow) identity boxes without their consent. for those who identify as bi or reject such categories for their own identity, i think that’s potentially problematic. which has parallels with the feminist issue of essentialising ‘woman’ when deciding who gets to call themselves feminist above. i agree this is a difficult circle to square. it would be easy if we could all just slot into tidy boxes but that is not reality. i agree that those with the privilege of power who display public hypocrisy with their political statements are furthering a problem but i think there needs to be a very carefully thought response to that. a republican politician (can’t remember who) said a while back that a few innocent people being tortured was acceptable collateral damage if it save innocent lives from terrorism. stephen colbert’s response to him was, ‘thanks for volunteering’. i see a potential ethical parallel here. thinking it acceptable that someone in power publically experience homophobia risks being just like that. it’s easy to say someone should go through that when it’s not you in the firing line.

    and i disagree with zack’s argument about religion in this context. the christianity i encounter is all about the messy realities. he’s rejecting a concept of religious morality that may be prevalent but is not universal. after all Jesus not only spoke up for the poor widow and the leper and the Samaritan but also for the tax collector stigmatised for his position of privilege. i think we always need to avoid the ‘Republican’ label being equatable with Pharisee. so, yeah, to Zack i say, the Bible i read is pretty clear – avoid stigmatising anti-human behaviour, even towards those individuals with power and privilege. by my reading the Bible instructs against praying, “thank God i’m not like that Pharisee/Republican”.

    i don’t see what is problematic when this kind of outing/baiting goes on for the response to be:

    “i can’t comment on so-called rumours or allegations regarding ______’s sexual identity. it is each person’s right to come out, if they are LGBTQ, when and how they choose. while individuals should be encouraged to live openly, they also deserve support rather than humiliation given the persistence of homophobia/ transphobia. the ______ party should be discouraged from both pushing people out of the closet and/or attempting to shame and stigmatise anyone for their orientation. being LGBTQ is not something to be ashamed of but that respect also extends to someone’s choice to not be ‘out’ even where we consider someone’s anti-equality politics to be hypocritical. allowing someone self determination and/or not shaming others based on sexual identity does not however prevent anyone from criticising ________’s or the _______ party’s politics or statements where they are deemed to be homophobic or anti-equality.”

    in a messy situation that to me seems approaching an adequate and not too hard to articulate response. complex realities simply require us to develop more nuanced responses. i think a good approach is: ‘give people the respect you seek to be given, even when you think they don’t deserve it.’

    great show. nicely provocative. you raised some complex issues and the conversation was a welcome one.

    phew. i’m done. 🙂


  2. cary on May 4, 2010 at 10:23 am

    p.s. and in case i was not being clear, i was agreeing with Colbert. whatever our cause, we should avoid seeing harm as a acceptable means to an end. whether it be an innocent person being tortured or a hypocritical queer politician being thrown to the homophobic wolves of their own political party. those are **not** moral equivalents in my book but i think the underlying principle about the dignity of being human is the same. i have a problem with humans, (by which we always mean ‘others’ and not oneself) even those with power, being viewed as expendable collateral in any political struggle or war. i agree with Zack’s ends (equality/end to homophobia) but i am uncomfortable with some of the potential means by which to get there. i think it creates too much risk for others who are far more vulnerable & less powerful to be shamed/physically hurt for their orientation/identity.

    alright, i really am done now. sorry. 🙂

  3. p2son on May 4, 2010 at 10:46 am

    What YUMMY comments~! Thank you for taking the time to write and share these. So RICH! I will be sure to share them with Zack.

    I remember that conversation about feminism and the emerging church. Having run into a fierce wall of misogyny over at the #MissionShift Conference, (as well as homophobia) I am amazed that the so much of the church (which if over 50% female) remains so staunchly opposed to women and their voices. They can clean up the altar and teach the children, but leave the “real work to the men.” UGH. The church is impoverished for it too. They are digging their own graves and grow less and less relevant by the day.

    The more I think about it, the more I see the “outing” of conservative closeted gay men as a form of violence, and not one that I am willing to support. It is murky of course, because by allowing that person to remain, we passively encourage violence. But there must be other solutions. Maybe not. Maybe we have to just do the right thing according to our conscious.

    So do you have any suggestions for future shows? What would you like to see us discuss?

  4. Zack Ford on May 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    The opinion you both share I think reflects echoes of second-wave feminism, which maintains an essentialist view of who can be a feminist.

    I maintain that I am a feminist because I understand gender roles to be socially constructed and I actively commit myself to resisting patriarchy.

    Just as I don’t need to be a person of color to resist white privilege nor do I need to have a disability to resist nondisabled privilege, I do not need to have a vagina to be committed to resisting male privilege.

    I proudly identify as a feminist, and do not expect to be changing my mind anytime soon.

  5. Zack Ford on May 4, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    As for political outing, I think it’s important to recognize that these anti-gay closet cases USE their anti-gay positions to reinforce their own internalized homophobia. I generally disapprove of outting, but when individuals use their own closet as a weapon, something must be done.

    The goal is to break the cycle. It’s not to sick the dogs on them. To say such a thing buys into the same kind of self-victimizing that I always criticize the right for. Yes, I live in a society with an incredible amount of heterosexual privilege, but I am working to make it better for all people.

    Outing someone interrupts their sociopathic need to self-demonize. If, when exposed, they choose to continue allying themselves with anti-gay voices, that is their choice and they face the consequences of that choice. But if, when outted, they have the opportunity to learn and grow as individuals and come to terms with their identity, they deserve to be supported and understood for who they really are.

    I won’t reference Biblical morality, because it has no influence whatsoever on my own morality.

  6. cary on May 4, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    while i agree that it does have echoes of the second wave, even from a social construction perspective i’d simply want to add, and i think this was Peterson’s perspective, that there is simply a need for caution about not overlooking women’s experiences – as women- under patriarchal privilege. i know that that active listening was something you also acknowledged in the conversation.
    i do think it’s valuable to not equate gendered experience with essentialised notions of gender. that is well reflected in your response — i think your definition for claiming feminist identity is about as succinct and compelling one as i’ve seen yet.

    while not exclusive to it i think the more cautionary note reflects a shared concern in our religious contexts where women are particularly sidelined and where men speak (for women) as a norm.

    i respect your not speaking to biblical notions of morality and certainly wouldn’t expect you to have to when that is not your moral basis. i only raised them here because not everyone coming from a religious perspective works with straightforward ideas about right and wrong you were rejecting. but i thought your point about the need for moral complexity was a valuable one. and from where i stand with my own religious perspective i entirely agree fixed ideas of right and wrong or many limited notions of sin don’t get us very far.

    for you both –
    i’d been thinking this afternoon about what the Quaker perspective is in my limited experience of non-violence. i know that while there was little instruction of it in my reformed upbringing, it is something i have taken as read in my adult life, that violence extends beyond the physical and to be wary of it in all forms. so i think i’m on the same page as you Peterson on that.
    i don’t know. i agree with Peterson it seems problematic. maybe it is naive form of pacifism but i can’t get away from thinking there has to be an alternative that does not mean passive support of violence. and certainly, yes, it is down to one’s own conscience.

    i think one of the reasons it troubles me is i don’t hear voices offering any invitation of support in such cases. and
    i kind of find it disturbing to ask myself is there no one in these ‘anti-gay closet cases’ lives who has respected, supported and cared enough to offer real unconditional support as a human being to heal their lives through a journey toward self-acceptance?
    i don’t know, i find it discomforting. maybe because i hate to think what my life or indeed anyone i care about would look like if others/i waited for me/them to learn and grow and make right choices *before* we deserved support and understanding. that feels so dehumanising.
    but maybe one can’t extend that kind compassion to people in positions of power. maybe that’s the price they pay for power. maybe then they have to be forcibly pushed towards change…

    provocative stuff. thanks for responding.

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